col1

What do the new powers just announced by Better Together mean for Scotland?

The new powers referred to are in fact not new. They are the same powers ‘offered’ by the three parties earlier in the year.

They have had lots of time to thrash out an agreed proposal before now.

In response to the Yes campaign taking a lead in the polls Gordon Brown has put forward a strategy in the form of a timeline for the three political parties – one of which he is a back bencher, not a leader.

The three main UK parties have grasped this timeline as if it was a lifeline.

Timeline

The timeline to reach a deal on how much income tax to devolve is:

  • September 19: Negotiations begin between three parties
  • October 31: Paper published by the present government (says Gordon Brown!) with proposals
  • St Andrew’s Day (November 30): Publish the agreement
  • Robert Burns Day (January 25): Draft laws published

The timescale of the Calman Commission:

  • December 2007: Established in principal
  • December 2008: Published first report
  • June 2009: Published final report
  • 2012: Formed basis for Scotland Act 2012

It is now almost 7 years since Calman was started and the proposals are not yet on the statute books (most likely April 2016). Gordon Brown thinks the current non agreed proposals can be delivered in 4 months.

What happens next?

Assuming that the draft legislation can be completed by 25 January 2015, it would have to be approved by the devolved Welsh and Irish assemblies before it could be voted on by the 650 Westminster MP’s, most of whom are against any extra powers for Scotland. It cannot be debated before the next general election in May 2015 and there is likely to be a substantial UKIP presence in the house. Nigel Farage (who could be deputy prime minister in coalition with the Tories) is on record as saying he wants to close the Scottish parliament.

If the bill did get through the House of Commons, it could be scuppered by the House of Lords.

In a twist, one week before the referendum William Hague has admitted “Giving Scotland more powers if it does not vote for independence is not Government policy”

Reporting the same story, The Scotsman said: “The session also saw a backlash among English MPs over a pledge by the three UK party leaders to devolve more powers to Scotland. He was asked by Tory MP and former Welsh Secretary John Redwood “who will speak for England?” in the negotiations for more powers. Another Tory backbencher Christopher Chope demanded to know: “When did the government change its mind on devomax and when are MPs going to have a chance to express a view?”

Check the Govt & Politics section for more answers about devolution, specifically “Won’t we get more powers anyway if we vote no?”

“If you vote ‘No’ you massively change the balance of power and they will not only give you nothing, but will probably take powers away from the Scottish Parliament”

Andrew Neil, Unionist and leading Westminster expert

Would Scottish University students still get free education?

Yes. The Scottish Parliament has full control of education policy. Access to higher education in Scotland is based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

Historically the Scottish education system is very different from that of the other countries in the United Kingdom.

This is why we have been able to take a different path from England and Wales. For example, we have abolished tuition fees which are up to £9,000 annually.

Postgraduate study will also be supported with no change after independence.

The current Scottish Government is committed to maintaining free tuition. Independence would make it easier to keep this policy because Westminster cuts the budget every year, as they continue on their cost saving austerity programme.

What will happen to the BBC and the other TV channels?

The current Scottish Government intends to use BBC Scotland’s resources to build a dedicated Scottish Broadcasting Service funded by licence fee, set at the current BBC level. Older Scots will continue to receive their TV licence for free.

The existing BBC charter expires on 31 December 2016, and the SBS will begin broadcasting on TV, radio and online on 1 January 2017.

The SBS will work in partnership with the BBC so that viewers in Scotland will be able to watch the same range of BBC programmes, in addition to new Scottish programmes. We would, of course, be able to buy in programming from other broadcasters, including the BBC.

All existing TV channels will continue with their current operating licences and therefore we’ll still have STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as Freeview and any channels you watch through your satellite or cable service.

What is the economics case for independence?

International businessman Ivan McKee has worked in manufacturing for 30 years; he currently has interests in manufacturing businesses in Scotland, England and Eastern Europe and runs his own manufacturing turnaround and consultancy company. His work has taken him across the globe, including periods working in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

He is one of 2200 business people who have joined Business for Scotland.

According to Ivan:

“All the financial data clearly shows that Scotland as a stand-alone economy would be more prosperous than at present. The primary focus of the UK economy is the City of London and the banking sector, manufacturing as a consequence is often overlooked.”

My global experience has shown me how dynamic, responsive and successful smaller countries can be, when given the scope to focus on what is important for their economies and businesses”.

Watch Ivan’s economic case for independence here:

Is Scotland’s economy dependent on oil? What else does Scotland have?

Even without oil and gas, Scotland’s wealth per head of population is 99% of that of the UK’s, and ranks behind only London and the South East of England on this measure.

We have many other strong industries on which Scotland can build. We have:

“By international standards Scotland is a wealthy and productive country. There is no doubt that Scotland has the potential to be a successful independent nation”.

The Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission Working Group (which includes two Nobel Prize winning economists)

Will I still get my state pension?

Yes. The Scottish Government has guaranteed to continue to pay every state pension after independence including all the rights you have built up to enhanced pensions such as through Serps.

The Department for Work & Pensions has confirmed that UK pensions will continue to be paid in full, even if Scotland becomes independent.

Will we still have the pound?

Yes, we will keep the pound Sterling. The preferred way is through a currency union with the UK. If this is not agreed by the UK government then Scotland could use the UK pound without a formal agreement. In February 2014, Nicola Sturgeon suggested that the Scottish pound would “shadow” the UK pound without a formal monetary union.

There are similar arrangements in Europe. Denmark has its own currency, which is pegged to the euro, and has one of the most advanced economies in Europe. Norway has its own currency, which floats against the dollar and euro.

The UK pound, the dollar, euro and other currencies are described as “Fully Tradeable” which means that any country can use them. There are 18 other countries who use the UK pound.

Will we still get the NHS?

Yes, the National Health Service is currently run by the Scottish Parliament and government and will remain so.

In terms of health policy, Scotland is already effectively independent.

The Scottish government will continue to fund all the health services it currently provides, including cross-border services. Medical experts have already made clear that the contracts currently in place to provide for cross-border treatment would carry on in exactly the same way.

EU Directives protect our access to cross-border treatment, and there are also separate agreements in place with countries outwith Europe.

col2

Why should we be an independent country?

With independence we can build the country that we would all want to live in.

A more powerful and democratic Scotland

  • We will always get the government we vote for
  • Our government will be entirely focussed on what is best for Scotland
  • We will be directly involved in policy decisions in Europe
  • We will negotiate strategic business, defence and social alliances with other countries that best suit Scotland’s needs
  • Decisions regarding Scotland will never again be made in the undemocratic, unelected House of Lords

A more prosperous country

  • We will keep ALL of the taxes we pay and collect
  • We will keep ALL of the tax revenues from the North Sea operators
  • We will have the power to tailor policy to suit our own circumstances
  • We could invest our oil wealth for future generations like other nations have done
  • Economic policy designed for Scotland will promote business growth
  • Promoting Scotland overseas through our own embassies and trade organisations would boost exports of Scottish goods
  • Our international profile would be raised leading to a boost in tourism

A fairer society

The UK is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world. With independence we can fight against or eliminate:

Will I pay more tax after independence?

No, there is no requirement to increase income tax or national Insurance.

We can afford to pay for every service we have with the taxes we currently collect. Income tax rates and bands will not change as a result of independence.

What will happen to the bedroom tax?

The current Scottish Government is committed to abolishing the Bedroom Tax.

This deeply unpopular UK Government measure affects the most needy in society. 80% of households affected by the bedroom tax have a person living with a disability.

Will my mortgage rate be affected?

Banks base their mortgages on the interest rate set independently by the Bank of England, which in a sterling zone would be exactly the same for Scotland as for the rest of the UK, just as it is now.

What defence will an Independent Scotland have?

Scotland would have its own Scottish Defence Force (SDF), designed to ensure that Scotland can:

  • Secure its borders, land, air space and sea
  • Deter attacks and protect its citizens and assets
  • Make a contribution to peace keeping under the auspices of the United Nations

The current Scottish Government proposes:

  • A phased build up of personnel to some 15,000 (an increase of 4,000 on current numbers) regular and 5,000 reserve personnel across land, air and maritime forces over ten years.
  • Naval forces would be built up to two squadrons with around 2,400 regular and at least 270 reserve personnel.
  • The army would incorporate an HQ function and an All-Arms brigade, with three infantry/marine units, supported by a number of specialist units and special forces. This would entail around 4,700 regular and at least 1,110 reserve personnel.
  • Air forces will include an Air Force HQ function which would require 3,250 regular personnel and around 300 reserve personnel. This would consist of:
    • Air Command and Control systems
    • Quick Reaction Alert squadron
    • Tactical air transport squadron
    • Flight training and establishment
    • Airborne maritime patrol capability

Land and property inherited by the proposed Scottish Defence Force would include the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, the Leuchars and Lossiemouth RAF bases.

The Scottish Government’s defence plan includes taking two Type 23 frigates, four minesweepers, and 16 Typhoon fighter jets.

There’s a chasm between an independent Scotland’s approach to defence and Westminster’s approach. It is inconceivable that a Scottish Government would take our people into an illegal war.

Will we be in Europe?

Yes. We have been in the European Union for over 40 years. There is no mechanism in the European Constitution to expel 5.25 million citizens.

The new European Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker is “sympathetic” to an independent Scotland joining the EU.

A high-ranking EU official stated that Junker “would not want Scotland to be kept out” and “he’d be sympathetic as someone who is from a smaller country as he’ll understand the obstacles that can be put in the way of less powerful member states.”

An independent Scotland’s potential membership would be treated as a “special and separate case” to nations wanting to join from regions such as the Balkans that have yet to satisfy all the rules, a senior EU source stated.

Scotland would be “exempt” (from the new member application process) as it is already a signatory to core requirements for nation states in areas such as employment rights and equality legislation because of its 40-year membership of the EU as part of the UK.